Bailey resident teaches class on baking at high altitudes

Kathy Mastroianni teaches how to adjust recipes for successful holiday baking

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If your cakes fall and your cookies are hard when you bake at high altitude, you're not alone.

In Bailey, Kathy Mastroianni has been teaching people how to adjust recipes for successful baking in the mountains for about eight years. She asked the Canyon Courier not to divulge her secrets.

Mastroianni has been baking at high altitude for 28 years. When she first moved to Colorado years ago, she faced the harsh reality of not knowing how to bake at altitude. 

An astrophysicist friend in the area taught her the science behind her baking woes, like how less air pressure puts less force on your baked goods, causing them to rise and expand more quickly. Mastroianni knew she needed to spread the knowledge with others, and she decided there was a need for lessons in baking at high altitude.

Her classes are all inclusive, with participants learning to adjust recipes for high altitude, learning tricks about different ingredients and how they react to altitude, and even getting to make a recipe with Mastroianni in her home that sits at 8,700 feet. 

Mastroianni says people come to her discouraged that their recipes are not coming out like they remember them.

“I did a class at the Catholic church with these old ladies — I'm talking 70s, 80s, and they had their grandmas' recipes,” she said.

At that class, she said she had a 100% success rate at adjusting those recipes for a tasty revival of family traditions.

At her holiday high altitude baking class on Dec. 4 at her home in Bailey, Mastroianni held a hybrid class, welcoming virtual and in-person participants.

Jennifer Snyder, who has lived in Bailey for 1.5 years, was excited to be able to make her family recipes again.

“My mom was a gourmet cook. I have a lot of old family recipes,” she said.

One participant, who joined from Zoom, was not even in Colorado. Donna Mosher is currently living in North Carolina but has plans to move to Pagosa Springs soon.

Mosher is trying to get ahead of the move, so she can continue to successfully bake once she gets to a higher altitude. She has tried baking at higher altitudes before but struggled.

“It was tasty, but it just didn't come out like it was supposed to,” Mosher said.

During the baking part of the class, Mastroianni talks the participants through adjusting ingredients and encourages them to use their senses to judge if things are coming out right. She says you can use almost all of your senses while baking.

The recipe for Saturday's class was eggnog cookies. After making the necessary adjustments, class members used their sense of smell to decide when the treats were done baking. Often, baking times can be different due to altitude. 

Everyone in the class agreed that the cookies turned out great, and they were impressed at the adjustments they made to the recipe to achieve the perfect treat. 

If you find yourself experiencing “fails” while baking at altitude, Mastroianni can help, and she offers continued support for recipes after her class.

To join a future class with Kathy Mastroianni, reach her at mastrokj@aol.com.

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